Wed, Mar 14, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Alex Ovechkin joins exclusive 600-goal club

AP, WASHINGTON

Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals celebrates scoring against the Winnipeg Jets in the second period of their NHL game in Washington on Monday.

Photo: AP

Everyone around Alex Ovechkin had a hunch this was his night.

His wife, Nastya, had flown in from Moscow just in time. Coach Barry Trotz noticed Ovechkin was unusually quiet.

By the time he scored the 599th goal of his career, Ovechkin sensed it, too.

Less than four minutes into the second period of the Washington Capitals’ game against the Winnipeg Jets, Ovechkin put back a rebound and skated into the spotlight as the latest member of the NHL’s 600-goal club.

The Russian superstar scored twice to reach the milestone in typical Ovechkin fashion, becoming the fourth-fastest player in NHL history to 600 behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull.

“When I score 599, I felt like: ‘OK, I still have to make a push two periods,’” Ovechkin said. “Finally, I scored.”

Ovechkin’s rebound goal past Connor Hellebuyck 3 minutes, 53 seconds into the second period was his 42nd of the season as he tries to hit 50 for the eighth time.

His first goal 4:35 into the first period came on a five-on-three power play as the Russian winger looked determined to reach 600 after several games on the doorstep.

“He knew he was going to get it done today,” Trotz said after the Capitals’ 3-2 overtime victory. “The great thing about Ovi is when he puts something to it in his mind, he was going to get it done.”

Capitals fans who have watched Ovechkin shine as the most productive goalscorer of the past decade-plus gave him a standing ovation for almost a minute after he reached the mark.

After scoring 33 goals last season, his second-lowest total in a non-lockout-shortened season, the 32-year-old Ovechkin’s resurgence made his climb to 600 all the more impressive.

No player 32 or older has led the NHL in goals since Phil Esposito in 1974-1975.

“He’s the best goalscorer probably of my time, definitely, and a generation,” said Tom Wilson, who had the primary assist on Ovechkin’s 600th. “It’s on us if we don’t get him the puck. It’s a little bit of pressure, definitely, but you just go out there and play your game, and it was one of those things that was just going to happen.”

Greeting Ovechkin in the locker room, owner Ted Leonsis took the moment to express his gratitude for 600 goals over the past 13 seasons.

“I told him I loved him and respected him, and was very grateful and appreciated everything he’s done for the fans and for our team, and looking forward to the next 100 goals,” Leonsis said.

Ovechkin recaptured sole possession of the NHL leading scorer against Jets winger Patrik Laine, who scored his 41st of the season to attempt to keep pace with his idol.

Even while hoping Ovechkin would not score No. 600 against Winnipeg, Laine could not help but appreciate the scoring pace.

“That’s pretty amazing to reach that,” Laine said. “Six hundred goals in under 1,000 games, it’s pretty unreal.”

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